This sample of Whipnose, a hopped whiskey from some outfit called the Seven Stills of SF, seems to represent a new low, or high, depending on your point of view, in Sku’s career as a perpetrator of avant garde sample bottle labels. As you can see this one doesn’t even have a label; instead, Brakhage-style, Sku has written the name directly on the bottle. And he has chosen a colour that is all but impossible to read and has written the name vertically down the bottle in a free, almost baroque script. I put it to you, however, that this in fact is a complex text, worthy of analysis in and of itself.

Any semiotician worth her salt probably has a sense of what is going on here but at the risk of redundancy let me offer a reading: the near-illegibility of the text disappearing into the gold of the whiskey in the bottle is an allegory of the relationship between this whiskey and the double hopped IPA it was distilled from—Sku wants us to remember that behind this text (the whiskey) is the trace of another author (the brewer) and also the fragility of the signature, the imprimatur, if you will (and I think you will) of the creator of a small-scale artefact in a late-capitalist economy normally flush with mass-produced goods. This, I think, also explains the use of free-hand in place of the usual printed label (notice the tension between the hard, straight lines of the “w” and the sprawl of the “e” which reaches out to the horizon, evoking as well the symbol for infinity). Continue reading


Dewar’s White Label + Some Fooling Around

Dewar's White LabelThis is the third, and probably last for a while, of my reviews of easily found mass market blends (see here for the Black Label, which I liked a lot, and here for the Famous Grouse, which I did not like a lot). Unlike the Black Label and the Famous Grouse, I have never previously tasted the Dewar’s White Label (unless I have and have suppressed the memory). Owned by Bacardi, this White Label is claimed by them to be the top-selling blended Scotch whisky in the US. Then again, the Famous Grouse is claimed to be the top-selling blend in Scotland.

The group’s premier distillery is Aberfeldy and their malt is said to be the cornerstone of all their blends. I’ve not had much Aberfeldy before either so that doesn’t really create any particular expectations for me. I’ve also never tried the age stated Dewar’s blends—I believe there’s a 12 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. If you do know those and would recommend them please write in below. Continue reading

Jameson Select Reserve, Black Barrel

Jameson Select ReserveI don’t know too much about Irish whiskey (as I have noted before). I believe this Black Barrel is a blend like the regular Jameson, though priced a rung above. Indeed, a quick glance at the official website confirms this. It also informs me that this is matured only in ex-bourbon barrels–whereas the regular Jameson seems to be from bourbon and sherry casks–and contains a larger proportion of pot still whiskey in the blend; and like all Jamesons this is triple-distilled. The barrels would seem to be charred more than usual a la the Ardbeg Alligator (hence the name, I suppose). Let’s have at it.

Jameson Select Reserve, Black Barrel (40%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Soft vanilla, toasted (dried) coconut and some grainy spice. The toasted coconut transitions quickly to lightly toasted wood. Very clean but not a whole lot happening. After a few minutes it gets quite neutral and borderline unexpressive–wait, there’s something that puts me in mind of talcum powder. Water doesn’t do anything for the nose. Continue reading